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exaggeration, as the father of modern prose. Nothing can be more lucid than his style, which is at once bright and strong, idiomatic and direct. He knows precisely what he has to say, and says it in the simplest words. It is the form and not the substance of Dryden's prose to which attention is drawn here. There is a splendour of imagery, a largeness of thought, and a grasp of language in the prose of Hooker, of Jeremy Taylor, and of Milton which is beyond the reach of Dryden, but he has the merit of using a simple form of English free from prolonged periods and classical constructions, and fitted therefore for common use. The wealthy baggage of the prose Elizabethans and
. their immediate successors was too cumbersome for ordinary travel; Dryden's riches are less massive, but they can be easily carried, and are always ready for service.
In these respects he is the literary herald of a century which, in the earlier half at least, is remarkable in the use it makes of our mother tongue for the exercise of common sense.
The Revolution of 1688 produced a change in English politics scarcely more remarkable than the change that took place a little later in English literature and is to be seen in the poets and wits who are known familiarly as the Queen Anne men. It will be obvious to the most superficial student that the gulf which separates the literary period, closing with the death of Milton in 1674, from the first half of the eighteenth century, is infinitely wider than that which divides us from the splendid band of poets and prose writers who made the first twenty years of the present century so famous. There is, for example, scarcely more than fifty years between the publication of Herrick's Hesperides and of Addison's Campaign, between the Holy Living of Taylor and the Tatler of Steele, and less than fifty years between Samson Agonistes, which Bishop Atterbury asked Pope to polish, and the poems of Prior. Yet in that short space not only is the form of verse changed but also the spirit.
Speaking broadly, and allowing for exceptions, the literary merits of the Queen Anne time are due to invention, fancy, and wit, to a genius for satire exhibited in verse and prose, to a regard for correctness of form and to the sensitive avoidance of extremes. The poets of the period are for the most part without enthusiasm, without passion, and without the ‘fine madness' which, as Drayton says, should possess a poet's brain. Wit takes precedence of imagination, nature is concealed by artifice, and the delight afforded by these writers is not due to imaginative sensibility. Not even in the consummate genius of Pope is there aught of the magical charm which fascinates us in a Wordsworth and a Keats, in a Coleridge and a Shelley. The prose of the age, masterly though it be, stands also on a comparatively low level. There is much in it to attract, but little to inspire.
The difference between the Elizabethan and Jacobean authors, and the authors of the Queen Anne period cannot be accounted for by any single cause. The student will observe that while the inspiration is less, the technical skill is greater. There are passages in Addison which no seventeenth century author could have written; there are couplets in Pope beyond the reach of Cowley, and that even Dryden could not rival. In these respects the eighteenth century was indebted to the growing influence of French literature, to which the taste of Charles II. had in some degree contributed. One notable expression of this taste may be seen in the tragedies in rhyme that were for a time in vogue, of which the plots were borrowed from French romances. These colossal fictions, stupendous in length and heroic in style, delighted the young English ladies of the seventeenth century, and were not out of favour in the eighteenth, for Pope gave a copy of the Grand Cyrus to Martha Blount.
The return, as in Addison's Cato, to the classical unities, so faithfully preserved in the French drama, was another indication of an influence from which our literature has never been wholly free. That importations so alien to the spirit of English poetry should tend to the degeneration of the national drama was inevitable. For a time, however, the study of French models, both in the drama and in other departments of literature, may have been productive of benefit. Frenchmen knew before we did, how to say what they wanted to say in a lucid style. Dryden, who was open to every kind of influence, bad as well as good, caught a little of their fine tact and consummate workmanship without lessening his own originality; so also did Pope, who, if he was considerably indebted to Boileau, infinitely excelled him. That, in M. Taine's judgment, would have been no great difficulty. "In Boileau,' he writes, there are, as a rule, two kinds of verse, as was said by a man of wit (M. Guillaume Guizot); most of which seem to be those of a sharp school-boy in the third class; the rest those of a good school-boy in the upper division.' And Mr. Swinburne, who holds a similar opinion of the famous French critic's merit, observes, that while Pope is the finest, Boileau is the dullest craftsman of their age and school.' 1
With the author of the Lutrin Addison, unlike Pope, was
* M. Sainte-Beuve, the greatest of French critics, frankly acknowledges his indebtedness to Boileau, whom he styles Louis the Fourteenth's Contrôleur Général du Parnasse.' 'S'il m'est permis de parler pour moi-même,' he writes, ‘Boileau est un des hommes qui m'ont le plus occupé depuis que je fais de la critique, et avec qui j'ai le plus vécu en idée.'—Causeries du Lundi, tome sixième, p. 495.
personally acquainted. Boileau praised his Latin verses, and although his range was limited, like that of all critics lacking imagination, Addison, then a comparatively youthful scholar, was no doubt flattered by his compliments and learnt some lessons in his school. Prior, who acquired a mastery of the language, was also sensitive to French influence, and shows how it affected him by irony and satire. It would be difficult to estimate with any measure of accuracy the effect of French literature on the Queen Anne authors. There is no question that they were considerably attracted by it, but its sway was, I think, never strong enough to produce mere imitative art. While the most illustrious of these men acknowledged some measure of fealty to our * sweet enemy France,' they were not enslaved by her, and French literature was but one of several influences which affected the literary character of the age. If Englishmen owed a debt to France the obligation was reciprocal. Voltaire affords a prominent illustration of the power wielded by our literature. He imitated Addison, he imi. tated, or caught suggestions from Swift, he borrowed largely from Vanbrugh, and although, in his judgment of English authors, he made many critical blunders, they were due to a want of taste rather than to a want of knowledge.
A striking contrast will be seen between the position of literary men in the reign of Queen Anne and under her Hanoverian successors. Literature was not thriving in the healthiest of ways in the earlier period, but from the commercial point of view it was singularly prosperous. Through its means men like Addison and Prior rose to some of the highest offices in the service of their country. Tickell became Under-Secretary of State. Steele held three or four official posts, and if he did not prosper like some men of less mark, had no one but himself to blame. Rowe, the author of the Fair Penitent, was for three years of Anne's reign Under-Secretary, and John Hughes, the friend of Addison, who is poet enough to have had his story told by Johnson, had a situation of great profit' as Secretary to the Commissions of the Peace. Prizes of greater or less value fell to some men whose abilities were not more than respectable, but under Walpole and the monarch whom he served literature was disregarded, and the Minister was content to make use of hireling writers for whatever dirty work he required; spending in this way, it is said, £50,000 in ten years.
It was far better in the long run for men of letters to be free from the servility of patronage, but there was a wearisome time, as Johnson and Goldsmith knew to their cost, during which authors lost their freedom in another way, and became the slaves of the booksellers. It is pleasant to observe that the last noteworthy act of patronage in the century was one that did honour to the patron without lessening the dignity and independence of the recipient. Literature owes much to the noblest of political philosophers for discovering and fostering the genius of one of the most original of English poets, and every reader of Crabbe will do honour to the generous friendship of Edmund Burke.
The lowest stage in our national history was reached in the Restoration period. The idealists, who had aimed at marks it was not given to man to reach, were superseded by men with no ideal, whether in politics or religion. The extreme rigidity in morals enjoined by State authority in Cromwell's days, when theological pedantry discovered sin in what had hitherto been regarded as innocent, led, among